The NFL’s new kickoff rules will mark a big change in how special teams are played. With a touchback now resulting in the ball being placed at the receiving team’s 30-yard line, scoring should increase, as should large special teams gains — there will be more incentive for kickers to keep the ball in play.

But what does this all mean for the Philadelphia Eagles? How can they use this new format to their advantage? What are some of the more hidden impacts of said format?

How the Eagles’ Offense Can be Aided

For starters, kickoff returns should skyrocket. 97 percent of kickoffs were returned in the XFL last season with the rule in place versus just 22 percent in the NFL. There will be more big kickoff plays, but the average spot of the ball after the kickoff will still probably be around the touchback area at the 30 — that was the case when touchbacks put the ball at the receiving team’s 25, so it’s a reasonable conclusion.

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If punt returner Britain Covey, who had a solid season in 2023, serves as the primary kick returner, it might give the Eagles an advantage there. He has pulled off some big plays in the past, so that could set the Birds up for success over some other contenders.

Looking at it from an on-average basis, there will only be an increase of about five yards from 2023 to this season. But how much can five extra yards really help the Eagles, though? Well, they arguably have the best long-range kicker in the NFL. Jake Elliott has hit kicks in bad weather from almost 60 yards out and has hit kicks from a legitimate 60 yards out before. The average yards per drive in the NFL last season was 25.9, so that would put the average drive around an opponent’s 44-yard line if that number held up. It likely won’t, but it’s the best we have. Regardless, getting those six yards past midfield would result in a 61-yard field goal. That’s in Elliott’s range.

Is that feasible to hit regularly? No. In a situation where the Eagles need points late in a half, though, they might go for it. Instead of kneeling to end the first half as so many teams do, they might go for points. They have the offensive firepower to do so. Also, the epic 13-second field goal drive the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off against the Buffalo Bills in the 2021 playoffs could be repeated more easily. Those five yards really do have an impact.

On drives where the Eagles end up going three-and-out, their defense won’t be in an awful spot. If they get, say, seven yards, that would have them at their own 37. A punt inside or around the 20 from there isn’t unrealistic. The same applies to all teams, but the Eagles have an elite offense that can take advantage of short-yardage better than anyone. A good offense can score from wherever — Philadelphia’s new play-calling should help with that.

How the Eagles’ Defense Might Be Affected

It will now be — albeit probably slightly — easier for teams to enter the red zone. The problem with that? The Eagles sacrificed touchdowns more than almost anyone when they got in that range last season. Sixty-five percent of red zone drives led to touchdowns against Philadelphia in 2023, which was the fourth-worst mark in the league. They were around the league average in 2022, so maybe a return to form is in order.

Other than that, some of the same things apply. Perhaps it could be valuable for the Eagles’ defensive line to get a little more rest on touchdown drives, though. Since it is such an asset for them and that position tends to get the most tired on long drives, having less yardage be necessary for the average touchdown might save their breath. A play or two could be taken off on average. The big guys will appreciate that, for sure.

The new NFL kickoff format might have you believe that only special teams will be impacted. In reality, offenses and defenses will have to adjust as much as anyone.
If they can adapt accordingly, the Eagles can use the new rules to their advantage. Everything from good coaching to actual play on the field will have to be prevalent to make that happen.

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